Life in general is coming along really well here, despite some of the political and social instability that has been going on the past few months. This has had some impact on our lives but not anything that is cause for concern! We are now used to the razor-wire barricades that are still around the city, and the guys with AK-47’s under their arms don’t even register any more…That makes Cambodia sound like a bit of a police state or war zone, but it is far far from that! We just happen to live in a country with a paranoid (and weathly) ruler who likes to show his “strengths” through intimidation…oh the fun!
Mick and I have definitely settled into a groove and although we miss Thailand and Australia, there is a lot to love about Cambodia. We have a great apartment in a good location close to friends, food and fun. We have our awesome bicycles that we ride around (and I even ride to-and-from work!) and a bbq on our balcony that gets used very regularly with pork belly featuring often – yum! The weather is great here – hot and dry at the moment, but not extreme – and we are both healthy and active. Can’t complain so much!
We have our core group of friends who are soon departing (sad!) and that’s definitely going to leave a big hole in our lives, but we will only be a few months behind them anyway and in the meantime we have to make sure we keep up with our other friends here. We also want to do a bit of travel around Cambodia with our Khmer New Year plans already locked in (going to Svay Sisaphon) and I would love to make it up to Mondulkiri / Ratanakiri in the north east of the country and to Koh Kong down south near the Thai border before we leave. I’m sure our weekends will be filled uo with adventures pretty soon.
Work Work Work
My role is continuing to hopefully help to contribute to some improvements to road safety here in Cambodia, but there are a few barriers and obstacles to overcome. A main component of my work is to support advocacy activities for a draft law, however thanks to the continuing instability in Cambodian politics, I suspect that this draft law won’t be passed for some time yet.
The organisation has been doing some projects with some big supporters and donating helmets to kids and young people around Phnom Penh. Its really great to be a part of these events that are very formal (stage set-up, lengthy speeches about road safety, ministers and officials invited along) but usually have some fun and games for the students involved. There are some very good results for helmet use rates also, particularly for primary school students of whom over 90% continue to wear their helmet long after they are donated. Fantastic results that the organisation is very proud of, and rightly so!
The remaining 6 months of my assignment will be pretty interesting with a big donor coming on board (fingers crossed) and some innovative work planned for the next few years. It will be really awesome to be a part of the beginning of that planning and implementation and I hope to keep updated about it all after I leave. Lets just hope that draft law gets passed pretty soon as the road crashes aren’t improving with the current situation.
Of course I should provide an update about the cat/kitten sich here. First there was mum (Asukasa) then there were 5 kittens, then there were 4 kittens (one got killed by the tom cat, remember?) all who grew into adorable little guys (yep there were 4 boys!).
Each of them got a name of course – Badger, Paul, Yoyogi and Miso Joe. At around the 5 week mark, Asukasa decided that she wanted to remove the kittens from our house and introduce them to life on the street. She only managed to get Miso Joe from our clutches and we separated the remaining 3 from her at this point…the reason for this was mostly because
they were utterly adorable we wanted to make sure that they got re-homed and neutered. Cambodia does not need any more stray cats lurking around! Of course we got advice from the vet about separating and we set off to find them new homes which luckily wasn’t too hard – who doesn’t love a cute playful kitten! Paul and Yoyogi went to one home with a school principal from America and Badger went to a home with another cat and a French doctor. YAY!
However, a few weeks after we cleaned out the last litter tray and put away the toys, we heard a meowing outside…from a crevice down the side of our house. The prodigal son, Mr Miso Joe had returned! After a few days of his mum indicating that she wanted me to get him out of the crevice (I couldnt) all of a sudden he was skulking into the house and gobbling down kibble like nobodies business. Within a few days he was sprawled on the bed, not scared of us and enjoying all the pats he could get. Within 2 weeks he was purring like crazy everytime you picked him up and snuggling in tight. He loved to hang with Mick and spent many hours occupying space on his desk and lap. It was happy days for everyone, even though we knew we needed to rehome him soon enough…after we went to Australia, right?
After we went to Australia for Pip and Danny’s wedding, we returned to Miso Joe the “man cat” who was errherm getting fresh with his mother. NOT COOL DUDE. So two days after we got back, off he went to the best (and most expensive) vet in Phnom Penh, AgroVet for the snip. The procedure is a common one and I collected the little man after work and brought him home, wobbly and feeling sorry for himself to his mum who sniffed him and hissed -haha! But things didn’t go to plan…He should have recovered very quickly from this op but he didnt. By day 4 after the operation, he was looking very ill. He wasn’t eating. He could barely walk. He wasn’t drinking. And I was beside myself with worry. Of course this was all happening over a long weekend and the vet was closed. First thing on Tuesday morning (day 5), I was on the phone to the vet in tears and was told that “this was normal, it happens all the time, wait another day or so before you are really worried” by the man at AgroVet. I was mildly placated but within half an hour, Mick and I saw Miso Joe stumbling and appearing to have a fit. EEEEK!! We rushed him into the vet where they kept him in that day and the next morning I got a call saying that he was not better. By that night, he had died. They suspected bacterial encephalitis as two cats had the same thing the previous week and both had died. There was nothing we could do and he had probably picked up the infection from the vets when he went in for the op…
Over the last few months we have had some great trips within and outside of Cambodia.We did a trip to Koh Rong in May just after we arrived for 5 days of beachside bliss with the other volunteers. Koh Rong is reached by boat from Sihanoukville and is a stunning tropical island complete with island huts, turquoise waters and pina coladas. Food wise, I was pretty disappointed with the offerings as it was very western-ised. I wanted some delicious khmer seafood! Oh well..
We got to go for a work junket to Siem Reap for a few days that Mick and I tacked a trip to Sisaphon and then Bangkok onto – woo! We did Angkor Wat in Siem Reap of course and got to visit our friends town up in the north west of Cambodia which is a dusty town near the border of Thailand
In Bangkok we met with our friends Nick and Juup and spent a few days eating Thai food (yum!), shopping and site-seeing. Bangkok is such a crazy big city but so modern and easy to get around so its a lot of fun to go for a break there.
I went to Vietnam for a work junket / team building retreat in September and got to Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hoi An where we ate amazing seafood, hung out in a swanky resort and swam in the ocean.It was a really good opportunity to get to know some of the amazing people I work with at AIP Foundation from all over the globe and get inspired.
A little while after that, Mick and I went to Vietnam again to meet up with some friends, Bec and Gav, in Hoi An. Its such a beautiful town and the food is incredible! It was a bit dreary and rainy at the time thanks to a typhoon up near Taiwan but it was really lovely to see Bec and Gav and ride our bicycles and talk bosh. Sometimes you need that battery re-charged.
In late October, my sister Claud came to visit and we did a short trip to Sihanoukville for some beach time. Unfortunately the beach was a bit dreary as it was the end of the rainy season that seemed to go longer than expected this year. But it was wonderful to sit by the beach, drink a days worth of cocktails, eat amazing seafood and generally chillax.
As mentioned before, we went back to Australia in early November for my sister Pip’s wedding (pic’s here!) which was down in Jamberoo. Seeing our friends and family was lovely even if it was very busy thanks to all the wedding preparation! It was almost like an early Christmas for us as we were going to spend Christmas in Phnom Penh with friends.
We spent a day in Singapore on the way back to Phnom Penh in which we ate our way around Singapore with some guidance from a friend.
On Boxing Day we headed off to Thailand again but this time it was to Chiang Mai for our friend Tikky’s wedding. We spent about 12 days all up in Thailand with a day at each end spend in Bangkok. When we got to Chiang Mai it was freezing – well, it was pretty cold! Overnight temperatures were down to around 14 degrees in the city and up in the mountain village where Tikky and JC got married it would have been under 10 degrees. Of course Mick and I weren’t really prepared as Phnom Penh rarely gets below 20 degrees!
As I said before, we have about 6 months remaining here in Cambodia. We will no doubt stay in the same apartment til we leave and hopefully not accumulate too much stuff in that time! Its so hard to pack your life up and leave stuff behind…
My work stuff will hopefully see me achieve some of my assignment goals and increase my networking for future opportunities (whatever they may be!) and Mick has a few simmering projects of his own that will be launched to great success of course.
We hope to do some more internal travel and go to Kampot and Kep, Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri and maybe even another side trip to Vietnam before my role finishes up so I can go visit the Hanoi office and Ho Chi Minh again.
What about you? Whats your plans for 2014?